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Present day Iraq exists on land known to the ancient world as Mesopotamia.  The territory was defined by its position between two rivers, the Tigris and the Euphrates.  This location provided two major assets: fertile land, irrigated by river waters that produced a surplus of food, and a good placement for trade with other settlements.  While these advantages made the region one of the key sites for the development of human civilization, the location also made the area desirable to outsiders and subject to repeated invasions over the course of its history. 

The region experienced many types of rule and many formal and informal legal systems.  The following is not intended to be a full historical survey; instead, moments in the history of the governance of the area that may be seen as significant for the legal heritage and traditions of Iraq have been highlighted. 

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Prepared by Constance A. Johnson
Senior Legal Research Anaylyst
June 2004

Last Updated: 06/09/2015